Monday, 31 August 2020

Number Talks: I can show a number in lots of ways.

Number Talks: I can show a number in lots of ways.

In Autahi, Thursday is Number Talk day when we get to start the day with some really rich thinking and talking about a mathematical problem or idea.

In Autahi, our Number Talks often begin with a question or a picture, but older children in the school might also look at a diagram, equation or graph. This starting point will be spark for collaborative problem solving.

This week, we began with a number and a lot of different maths and other equipment. How many ways could we show a number using the things we had to hand in class? Sharing our ideas helped us to find many solutions to this problem.

By participating in Number Talks, children learn to articulate their mathematical thinking, sometimes clarifying it along the way. They get to hear other children's ideas, building on them to extend their own thinking. They also develop the vital understanding that there are many ways to approach a problem.

In planning our Number Talks, teachers think about what the 'big mathematical idea' is that they would like their students to encounter. But during the Number Talk, it is the teacher's role to step back and be a facilitator and recorder, rather than to lead the discussion. 

In Autahi, we are developing the skills of listening to other people's ideas and wonderings, taking time to think (and allowing others that time), knowing when to share, appreciating people's contributions and responding to them. This time, after sharing some initial ideas, everyone had the chance to experiment with the equipment to make their own number. Sharing our ideas gave us lots of inspiration.

This was a problem with many solutions. How many different ways to show our numbers can you see? Can you think of any ways we didn't try?

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Casey the Caterpillar and the fundamentals of writing

 This week we have been exploring letter shapes with some of our new learners in Autahi. Before we start writing amazing stories, we need to make sure that we practice the fundamentals of writing and one of those is the shapes that make up letters.

We do this by using a story called 'Casey the Caterpillar'.

 Casey the Caterpillar

In this story Casey hatches from an egg and starts to look for food to eat. On her journey she sees lots of different things around her.

Casey the Caterpillar

As we can see here she has come across a tall stick. From this we can talk about how some letters have a tall stick like l, h, d and b. Then we practise the how we hold our pencil and write the shape.

Learning the shapes like this assists us when we are writing a letter. For example, an l is simply a tall stick but an h is a tall stick and a tunnel. This gives us a visual and audio clue to help us make the right shapes for the letters we want to write.

This is just one of the many fundamentals we teach but and it definitely makes a difference in our writing.

So don't be surprised if you hear us talking about open mouths, cups and possum tails when we are writing.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Celebrating our writing in Autahi

 Celebrating our writing

In my Blog on 4th August ('Writing for pleasure, purpose and play'), I reflected on the many reasons to write that our Autahi children are discovering. As teachers, we are always keen to find ways to enthuse and inspire children to write. Feeling that one's writing is purposeful is an important part of this. While some of us are happy to write just for our own enjoyment, knowing that you are writing to communicate with another person adds an extra spark. That thought is motivating me right now to write this Blog!

Last week, some of us teamed up with Scott's writing group in Tautoru. We chose the topic of 'A Disgusting Meal'. Over two days we planned and wrote our pieces. We started by sharing ideas and collecting a word bank. We made picture plans and chose particular words we would like to use. After writing, we spent time re-reading and adding to our stories. 

On day three, it was time to share with our Tautoru buddies. We read our stories in small sharing circles. 

It was really fun hearing other people's ideas about what makes a disgusting meal. 

Having an audience hanging off your words is pretty exciting.

Thanks Scott and Tautoru for making us laugh and squirm with your writing. We'll definitely be doing this again. It's great to share! 

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Exploring our local environment

 Last week we dialled up our optimism that it wouldn't rain so that we could get out into our local bush for a unique experience in our environment. Centennial Reserve is a special place in Mirimar that showcases lots of what makes New Zealand such an incredible place to live. From the trees and native birds zooming around or enjoying  the walking paths and bike tracks it has a lot to offer our community. 

As part of our schools sustainability plan it is important for our learners to connect with our green spaces in the community and how we care for them. This links closely to the learning we are doing within the school around our own gardens and environment. 

We were lucky to be joined on this trip by Joakim and Arihia, two of our local community leaders who work with our school around the sustainability of our local environment. We did many activities with them alongside our Junior school teachers from Autahi and Tautoru. 

Here is a glimpse into some of the things we got up to. I truly encourage all of you to go out and explore these green spaces and talk to your child about what makes them so special and how we might look after them.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Cross Country Fun

Bravery, Perseverance - and Zest!

On Monday, we all had the chance to use our character strengths to take part in the Junior Cross Country Run at Worser Bay Beach. We saw plenty of Bravery and Perseverance at work - and a generous sprinkling of Zest, too - as the Autahi children sprinted along the sand and climbed the sand dune mountain on their way to the finish line. Some year one students chose to challenge themselves further by taking part in the year two race as well, running three laps of the track in total. What an awesome effort!

Thank you to all the parents who made it along to cheer on the runners. Thanks also to Ashleigh for sharing the gorgeous photos she took on the day (it's not easy getting photos of small children on the move!). Here is a small selection to enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Writing for purpose, pleasure and play

Writing for purpose, pleasure and play

What makes children keen to write? This question is often in our minds as we work with our beginning writers in Autahi. In our phonics and writing sessions, we focus on practising the technical and mechanical skills that our children need in their writing toolkits: letter formation, phonics, identifying and recording sounds, and using high-frequency (Rocket) words are high on the list right now. But, while a well-stocked writing toolkit makes it possible for children to write, they also need a reason to put their toolkits to work.

Here are some recent examples from Autahi.

Here, we are writing invitations for our families to the Autahi Stay and Play. Writing for a purpose is very motivating, especially as the children know that they will take their writing home to share. In this case, the writing has to be as clear and accurate as possible so as to communicate some important information.

Here is a short piece of writing about that took on a life of its own! The idea of a magic donut captured this writer's imagination. Before we knew it, he was writing through Morning Tea time and at home, too. The story grew to seventeen pages of sweet, donut-y fun. A Principal's Award from Jude was the icing on the cake (and motivation to write even more!).

Writing with a buddy can be great for sharing ideas and building confidence. On Whānau day, siblings had the chance to collaborate on some poetry together.

Not all writing happens during our timetabled writing sessions. A lot of writing goes on during Discovery Time, and it is always exciting to see how children make writing part of their games, inventing their own purposes for putting pen to paper.  This imaginative writer needs a label for the secret computer he is making. 

This writer also has an important purpose for writing: making an invitation for a friend to a playdate. Children are often keen to write letters and cards to friends and family in Discovery Time, including little notes and greetings for friends in class. This writing is fun, but is also a low-pressure way of experimenting with newly-acquired skills. Successfully communicating a message by writing is very satisfying and encouraging further writing.

Here is another kind of experimental, playful writing in Discovery Time. This writer has found a form to fill out on the back of a piece of scrap paper. He knows, probably from watching adults at home, what this activity looks like and is roleplaying being a form-filler himself. For this, he uses a mixture of words and letters he knows, and wavy play 'writing' to fill in all the spaces on the grid. Job done!

These writers are engaged in collaborative roleplay. They have set up a cafe and created a menu. They have been asking different class members what they would like to order and writing it down. They are practising their writing skills and also emulating ways they have seen writing used in the real world. And it's lots of fun, too.

It is fascinating to see how our children are influenced by the adult writers they see in their lives. As Jude reflected in last week's Newsletter (31st July 2020), understanding why our children choose to write is just as important as equipping them with the skills to do so: pleasure and purpose alongside technical know-how. It's an on-going exploration for us all.